Restoring governance is crucial in post-conflict countries. There are varying perspectives of what this entails. A narrow perspective of governance focuses on improving public management and strengthening government capacity to perform essential functions. A broader perspective looks at expanding the capacity of government, the private sector, and civil society organisations to exercise political and economic authority to manage a nation’s affairs (see UNDESA and UNDP 2007).
Ultimately, the aim of governance programming is to shape a society’s capacity to manage conflicting interests peacefully. This aim is facilitated through a range of donor activities, including assistance with: drafting constitutions, the electoral process, the development of inclusive institutions, public sector reform, justice sector reform, anti-corruption initiatives, the promotion of civil society, and conflict resolution projects.
Governance reforms cannot be viewed as technocratic exercises. They aim to reshape a society and are political in nature. In order to be effectual, reforms require public support for change, a sense of local ownership, political commitment to implement reforms and the administrative and financial capacity to do so.
Policymakers have placed growing importance on building institutions that are locally legitimate. The World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report argues that ‘strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice, and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence’.
Walter, B., 2014, ‘Why Bad governance leads to repeat civil war’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, pp. 1-31
How do you prevent civil wars recurring? Most contemporary civil wars are now repeats of earlier civil wars. This article uses statistical analysis to argue that political and legal institutions which ensure accountability play a key role in constraining elites in post-civil war states. Such constraints serve as a check on executive power, help incumbent elites credibly commit to political reform, and create a situation where rebels need not maintain militias as a supplementary mechanism to hold political elites in line. All of this reduces the odds of repeat civil war. Institutional weaknesses must be addressed in order to prevent civil wars recurring.
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UNDESA and UNDP, 2007, 'The Challenges of Restoring Governance in Crisis and Post-Conflict Countries', United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and United Nations Development Programme
International assistance organisations are crucial to helping governments increase their capacity to perform essential functions during post-conflict recovery. This book examines the challenges of restoring effective governance in crisis and post-conflict countries. Because the challenges facing these countries are complex and varied, governments and international organisations cannot rely on universally applicable approaches to restoring governance.
UNDESA, 2009, ‘Lessons Learned in Post-Conflict State Capacity: Reconstructing Governance and Public Administration Capacities in Post Conflict Countries’, Report of the Expert Group Meeting, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
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Chr. Michelsen Institute, 2004, Governance Interventions in Post-War Situations: Lessons Learned, Research Paper, UNDP & Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen Seminar Series, 5–7 May
Which democratic systems are most likely to be successful in different post war contexts? What has been learned in the last ten years of peace building in countries such as Guatemala and Afghanistan? This paper looks at the recent experience in internationally assisted transitions from war to peace. Governance is a process, not a product, a long-term perspective is necessary and social engineering has distinct limits. External actors need to be conscious of the dilemmas of ownership and assistance that a post war situation presents. The dilemma is inherent in all aid activities, but is accentuated in a post war situation by the imbalance in resources and administrative capacity that typically exist.
Hesselbein, G., Golooba Mutebi, F. and Putzel, J., 2006, 'Economic and Political Foundations of State-Making in Africa: Understanding State Reconstruction', Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, London
How can the process of state reconstruction be understood? This working paper examines state reconstruction in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in light of Tanzania’s experience of establishing a stable state. Overall, it argues that a ‘state in the making’ lies somewhere between ‘traditional’ forms of organisation and the modern state and formal economy. Its conclusions cast doubt on the idea that state-making is best pursued through modern liberal democracy.
Wassara, S. S., 2009, ‘The Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the Sudan: Institutional Developments and Political Trends in Focus Areas’, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway
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World Bank, 2011, 'World Development Report 2011: Overview', World Bank, Washington, DC
Some 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence. This report argues that breaking these cycles involves a) strengthening legitimate national institutions and governance to meet citizens' key needs; and b) alleviating international stresses that increase the risks of conflict (such as food price volatility and infiltration by trafficking networks). It is important to: refocus assistance on confidence building, citizen security, justice and jobs; reform the procedures of international agencies to accommodate swift, flexible, and longer-term action; respond at the regional level (such as by developing markets that integrate insecure areas and pooling resources for building capacity); and to renew cooperative efforts between lower, middle, and higher income countries.
For discussion and resources on (re)building governance institutions, see the state-building section of the GSDRC’s fragile states guide.
The objectives of post-conflict elections are generally to move the conflict from the military battleground to the political arena; to legitimise the power of a government; and to instigate the democratisation process.
The sequencing and timing of elections is highlighted as a key issue in much conflict and governance literature. Elections may be held before the necessary accompanying conditions have been met. Holding elections before a society is demilitarised, for example, increases the risk of renewed violence by those who lose in the political arena. In cases where elections need to be deferred, other instruments of vertical accountability (e.g. civic organisations and media) and horizontal accountability (e.g. ‘watchdog’) organisations can fill the void and contribute to the establishment of the necessary conditions.
The design of electoral systems and political institutions should be informed by a clear understanding of groups that have traditionally been excluded (e.g. women and minority groups). Research on constitutional design in emerging democracies suggests that parliamentary democracy is preferable to presidentialism as the latter tends to promotes zero-sum competition and personalistic leadership. In post-conflict contexts, particularly in divided societies, such factors may increase the risk of renewed tension and violence. Parliamentary democracy is considered instead to encourage compromise and coalitions, and to provide a forum for concerns of diverse members of society. In reality however, studies indicate that parliaments have often fallen short of these ideals. Weak parliaments have suffered from the dominance of the executive, armed groups and other non-state actors, and have been unable to generate support from the public.
Brancati, D. and Snyder, J. L., 2013, ‘Time to kill: the impact of election timing on postconflict stability’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 57, no. 5, pp. 822-53
What is the impact of early elections on post conflict stability? Using quantitative data, this article argues that holding elections soon after a civil war ends generally increases the likelihood of renewed fighting. However, favourable conditions, including decisive victories, demobilisation, peacekeeping, power sharing, and strong political, administrative and judicial institutions, can mitigate this risk. International pressure in favour of early elections strengthens peace when it provides robust peacekeeping, facilitates the demobilisation of armed forces, backs power sharing agreements and helps build robust political institutions, but it undermines peace without them.
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Reynolds, A., 2006, 'Electoral Systems and the Protection and Participation of Minorities', Report, Minority Rights Group International, London
In every successful case of peaceful and democratic conflict avoidance in the world, minority communities have been included and protected by the legislative process. This report focuses on the electoral system and makes a number of recommendations for best practice in minority representation and electoral system design. The participation of minorities in the legislative process at the stage of electoral reform is a key tool, both in peace building and in future conflict prevention.
Matlosa, K., 2004, ‘Electoral Systems, Constitutionalism and Conflict Management in Southern Africa’, African Journal on Conflict Resolution, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 11-54
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GSDRC, 2008, 'Election-related Conflict', Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
Election-related conflict or violence can occur at any stage of the electoral process – from pre-election registration, candidate nomination and campaigning to election day balloting to post-election results. Although election-related conflict is an under-researched area, there is a small body of literature that addresses its potential causes and methods of prevention and mitigation. This response considers electoral system choice, electoral administration, consultation, political parties and the disarmament of armed groups and the question of whether to include them in the political process, civic education, media and election monitoring.
UNDP, 2007, 'Parliaments, Crisis Prevention and Recovery: Guidelines for the International Community', UNDP, New York
What is the role of parliaments in peacebuilding and crisis management? How can the international community best support them? These guidelines suggest that assistance by external actors underestimates the productive role that parliamentary institutions can play. The formulation of peacebuilding strategies and power-sharing arrangements should consider impacts on democratic governance development. Electoral assistance must be backed by investments in long-term parliamentary strengthening in order to achieve human development and to avoid public disillusionment with the democratic process.
For further discussion and resources on elections in conflict contexts, see the section on elections in post-conflict or fragile environments in the GSDRC’s Political Systems guide
For discussion and resources on the role and impact of power-sharing arrangements in peacebuilding, see ‘power-sharing’ and in the peace agreements section of this guide.
Sustainable peace requires public trust in government, in particular among societal groups that had previously been excluded from political or administrative participation. Academics and practitioners alike argue that the inclusiveness of political institutions is of key importance, particularly in post-conflict contexts. It can also result in other forms of inclusion. Political voice and the ability to influence decision making facilitates forms of socioeconomic inclusion, such as land rights, educational and employment opportunities. It also facilitates notions of citizenship.
In addition to being an important end in itself, participation and inclusion can also be vital for peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Ghana serves as an important case study for the successful peaceful management of horizontal inequalities. Successive Ghanaian regimes have sought to reduce regional developmental gaps and to maintain a culturally and religiously inclusive state. This commitment, studies indicate, has diffused grievances and prevented ethno-regional political mobilisation.
A common tool to promote inclusion is the use of a quota system/reservations for government posts and seats in Parliament for women and minority groups, for example. The efficacy of this tool has been widely debated. Some argue that it can be tokenistic and may detract from the need to address underlying problems like systematic discrimination. Others see it as a necessary step that will allow for gradual social transformation and changes in attitudes. Minority-based political parties are another tool that gives voice to groups that have been excluded. This approach is also debated. Although sometimes genuinely desired by communities, there is a risk that the promotion of separate political outlets for different groups will detract from the promotion of long-term understanding and coexistence. In addition, all issues may be increasingly seen through the lens of ethnicity or religion, exacerbating the perception of group differences. This risk, some argue, can be countered if such mechanisms are accompanied by cultural and education policies that promotes inter-group cohesion.
Stewart, F., undated, ‘Policies Towards Horizontal Inequalities in Post-Conflict Reconstruction’, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE), Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford
Horizontal Inequalities (HIs) are a major potential source of conflict. In cases where they are identified as a significant cause of conflict they must be addressed to avoid further outbreaks of violence. What types of policies reduce HIs in post-conflict settings? What are the potential risks of such policies? This working paper considers the types of policies likely to reduce HIs and discusses evidence of how far post-conflict policies in Mozambique and Guatemala have taken HI considerations into account.
Langer, A., 2009, ‘Living with Diversity: The Peaceful Management of Horizontal Inequalities in Ghana’, Journal of International Development, vol. 21 no. 4, pp. 534-546
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Domingo, P. and Holmes, R., 2013, ‘Gender equality in Peacebuilding and Statebuilding’, ODI
What might gender-responsive approaches that work look like? This Guidance Paper aims to provide practical programming guidance to mainstream gender into international efforts in support of peacebuilding and statebuilding processes. An understanding of the political economy conditions and gender realities in each context and each sector (and the relationship between them) needs to be central to guiding programming choices on entry-points and inputs, and to informing the implementation process. Gender responsive approaches add value to peacebuilding and statebuilding efforts as they embed inclusivity and participation in both the process and outcomes of these processes.
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Baldwin, C., Chapman, C., and Gray, Z., 2007, ‘Minority Rights: The Key to Conflict Prevention’, Minority Rights Group International, London
Minority issues lie at the heart of many of the world’s conflicts. Yet minority rights are often marginalised in peace processes and conflict prevention programmes. This study looks at Chechnya, Darfur, Kashmir, Kosovo and Sri Lanka. Understanding the warning signs provided by minority rights violations could prevent conflicts. Groups should not be separated along ethnic, religious or linguistic lines as a way of creating peace, as such divisions can entrench old hatreds and wounds in the long term.
Lyytikäinen, M., 2009, 'Building Inclusive Post-Conflict Governance: How the EU Can Support Women's Political Participation', Initiative for Peacebuilding, International Alert, London
How can the EU and other donors support increased women’s political participation in post-conflict situations? What can be done to ensure that this results in meaningful change for women in general? This paper recommends practical strategies for the EU and other donors to guide the consideration of gender issues into their post-conflict governance interventions.
GSDRC, 2008, 'Quotas for Women’s Representation in Africa', Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
The success of quota systems in many African countries is largely attributed to: strong and active women’s movements; regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that have adopted gender balanced representation and set quota targets for member countries; and opportunities in post-conflict and transition societies, which allowed for advances in women’s representation.
For discussion and resources on the role and impact of power-sharing arrangements in peacebuilding, see ‘power-sharing’ in the peace agreements section of this guide.
Corruption is a symptom of dysfunctional state-society relations. Policies to counter corruption may include: redesigning programmes to limit the underlying incentives for pay-offs, for example through streamlining and simplifying regulations; and creating mechanisms for accountability and transparency of government actions, such as a freedom-of-information law. A key challenge for peacebuilders is to develop and enforce standards for public office that are sufficiently linked to local norms and expectations to generate support.
Combating corruption is especially challenging when it extends to criminal networks and organised crime. In some cases, corruption and criminal networks were incorporated in the strategies of rule of pre-war regimes. In other cases, corruption and illicit networks emerged as a part of war economies. In either case, they involve powerful actors, who are likely to undermine governance reforms and prescriptions for change. Donors often fail to prioritise measures to address corruption, generating problems later in the reform process.
Rose-Ackerman, S., 2008, 'Corruption and Government', International Peacekeeping, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 328-343
How does corruption affect post-conflict states? This article surveys cross-country evidence to consider how the weakness of institutions and leadership in post-conflict states make them a haven for both low-level and high-level corruption. It argues that although it is difficult and risky to include counter-corruption in post-conflict peacebuilding, if corruption is allowed to fester, it can undermine other efforts to create a stable, well-functioning state with popular legitimacy. International assistance can help, but it needs to be carefully tailored to avoid exacerbating the underlying problem created by the mixture of corruption and violence.
Philp, M., 2008, 'Peacebuilding and Corruption', International Peacekeeping, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 310-327
This article suggests an understanding of corruption that combines 'core' universal features (actions, decisions and processes that subvert or distort the nature of public office and the political process) with acknowledgement of the importance of local norms. A primary task of peacebuilding is to create a shared set of rules and norms that will govern the exercise of public office in a context where multiple sets of rules compete. In post-conflict situations, corruption cannot always be either avoided or prioritised. While it should not be tolerated, strategic focus is required, and interventions must be realistic about what is achievable.
Reno, W., 2009, 'Understanding Criminality in West African Conflicts', International Peacekeeping, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 47-61
What are the links between illicit commerce and political relationships in West Africa? How can a contexualised understanding of social relationships improve approaches to post-conflict statebuilding? This article critiques the automatic criminalisation of armed networks, some of which have strong societal roots. It argues for a more nuanced understanding of the connection between illicit economic activities and violent conflict and a more pragmatic approach to post-conflict statebuilding. A strategy that selectively incorporates some networks, and targets the more predatory, is likely to be most effective.
Looney, R., 2008, 'Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Under Extreme Adversity: The Problem of Pervasive Corruption in Iraq', International Peacekeeping, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 424-440
How can corruption in Iraq be controlled? What forces are driving domestic corruption in the country? This article argues that corruption in Iraq is the product of three interrelated forces: the growth of the informal economy, the deterioration of social capital, and the evolving relationship between tribes, gangs and insurgents. To reduce the impact of corruption, oil revenues could be distributed directly to the public.
Doig, A. and Tisne, M. ‘A Candidate for Relegation? Corruption, Governance Approaches and the (Re)construction of Post-war States’, Public Administration and Development, vol. 29, no. 5, pp 374-386
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Further discussion and resources on corruption can be found in the political and institutional factors section in the causes of conflict component in this guide, as well as under ‘war and shadow economies’ in the socioeconomic recovery section of this guide.
Rule of law commonly refers to “the principle of the supremacy of the law, equality before the law, fair and impartial application of the law, legal certainty and procedural transparency” (Hansen, and Wiharta 2007: xvi). It serves to safeguard against arbitrary governance and is essential for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict between different actors in society.
Conflicts are often preceded by a weakening or breakdown in the rule of law. Conflict in turn destroys existing justice and security systems. Post-conflict rule of law programming comprises various aspects, such as the promotion of human rights, constitution-making, justice sector reforms and working with traditional justice mechanisms. Rule of law programming cannot be implemented uniformly, but should instead incorporate local frames of reference and local systems of dispute resolution in order for local populations to have confidence in the system. It is important, however, that such local systems do not reinforce local power inequities or patterns of social exclusion.
Bassu, G., 2008, 'Law Overruled: Strengthening the Rule of Law in Post-Conflict States', Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism, vol. 14, no.1, pp. 21-38
What is meant by ‘the rule of law’, and how can it most effectively be promoted in post-conflict states? This article from Global Governance considers definitions, and outlines lessons from Kosovo and Haiti. Donors need to recognise rule of law reform as a political activity, and to harmonise as much as possible potentially contradictory elements: (a) local narratives and resources; and (b) the historical connection of the traditional ‘thick’ version of the rule of law with a liberal democratic state.
Hansen, A. S. and Wiharta, S., 2007, 'The Transition to a Just Order: Establishing Local Ownership after Conflict - A Policy Report', Folke Bernadotte Academy, Sweden
The rule of law must be addressed as part of any effort to prevent, manage or resolve conflict. This report, by the Folke Bernadotte Academy, argues that local stakeholders should be given as much authority as possible in establishing the rule of law. Although the shape and pace of reform will vary in different areas of the justice and security sector, popular and political acceptance is indispensable to all stages of the transition in order for it to be consolidated.
Hansen, A. S., Wiharta, S., Claussen, B. R., and Kjeksrud, S. 2007, 'The Transition to a Just Order: Establishing Local Ownership after Conflict - A Practitioners’ Guide', Folke Bernadotte Academy, Sweden
How should local ownership be promoted as part of justice and security sector reform? This handbook suggests ways of putting the principle of local ownership into practice. Transferring the responsibility for rule of law to local stakeholders is complicated but essential. It is important to build the capacity of local people to drive change and sustain efforts to strengthen the rule of law.
For more discussion and resources on rule of law, justice sector reform, and transitional justice, see the sections on conflict-affected and fragile states, non-state justice and security systems and transitional justice sections of the GSDRC’s justice guide.